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Hand pain in winter: causes, symptoms & treatment

By Apricus Health

25th July 2022

Winter can be a struggle for many reasons - less daytime, colder weather, dry skin, and even hand or joint pain!

Hand pain in winter is a common experience for many people, and the causes are varied. Luckily, whether your hand pain in winter is due to injury or arthritis, there is an equally as varied range of longer-term solutions that will help alleviate the discomfort. 

If you've ever wondered, 'why do my hands hurt in cold weather?' you’re not alone! Hand pain in winter is relatively common and normal. Within this article, Apricus Health will outline the causes and how to manage hand pain in colder weather. 

Why do my hands hurt in cold weather?

There are a few reasons why your hands might hurt when it's cold outside. One reason is that the blood vessels in your hands constrict when they're exposed to cold temperatures. This can cause a decrease in blood flow to your hands, which can lead to pain. Another reason is that the tissues in your hands may become irritated or inflamed when they're exposed to cold temperatures. This can also lead to pain. 

Our hands are made up of an intricate network of bones, ligaments, nerves, muscles, and joints. Your muscles in the forearms control the most delicate of manoeuvres of your fingers to accomplish your daily tasks. All these different moving parts are great for your range of motion, but they also prove to be a limiting factor too. If just one part of the mechanism of tendons and ligaments becomes strained, it affects the function of the rest of the parts.  

In the cold winter weather, the large number of joints and ligaments in your hands become especially sensitive. In between each of the joints is Synovial fluid, which acts as the lubricant to keep you moving. Cold weather has an adverse effect on the fluid, making your joints move slower and with less fluidity. The cold weather impacts how your muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints in your hands move, or in this case, not move, which is what leads to significant pain and discomfort. 

Do I need to worry about pain in hands during winter? 

In general, some levels of discomfort and soreness in the hands are standard during wintertime. Feeling your hands hurt in cold weather is not an immediate indication that anything is wrong with your hands. Should the stiffness and pain in your hands transform into continual numbness in your fingers, or pins and needles across your palms, then you should look into an assessment with a hand therapist. Here you will be able to determine whether there are any underlying issues in your hand or wrist that might need further investigation.  

Relief from hand pain in winter

If you are experiencing discomfort in your hands and wrists when the mercury plummets, then look to alleviate your pain by following these tips: 

  1. Wear mittens or gloves

Keeping your hands and fingers covered during the colder weather will help ease your pain. Gloves have individual fingers, and are good if you need the extra dexterity, or will be handling anything in the cold. Therapeutic gloves with non slip gripping are a great option to keep your hands functional.

For even more effective relief, insert heat pads into the gloves to get them nice and toasty faster, and your mittens will be able to retain the heat better.  

  1. Keep active 

Cold weather leads us to undergo less physical activity. Physical activity is vital as it increases blood flow to the targeted areas of the body. 

Regular stretches and hand exercises will help keep the muscles and joints in your hand and wrist healthy. A sedentary lifestyle will only leave you more susceptible to hand pain in winter. Stretch and move your fingers about regularly, bend your fingers and rotate your wrist. Doing this will boost your circulation and keep you feeling healthy. 

If you are unsure of any hand exercises, book an assessment with Apricus Health's hand therapists, who can help tailor an exercise plan to increase your hand motion.  

  1. Use a hand bath 

Bathing your hands in gentle heat, or a salt bath will provide soothing help to the affected hand or wrist. Mixing in a small amount of moisturiser can also tackle the dryness that is also associated with colder weather. The gentle warmth of the water is great for soothing joint pain. 

Seeing a Hand Therapist in Cold Weather

Joint pain from old injuries, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are often flared up during colder weather. Even for individuals without those conditions, the cold weather can aggravate general discomfort in the hands and wrist. When the cold weather comes, it's important to know ways of protecting your joints, especially if you are susceptible to arthritic conditions or Raynaud's Phenomenon

Your Apricus Health hand therapist can advise you on alternate ways of doing daily activities that cause hand pain in winter. If you are experiencing hand, wrist, or finger pain in winter, book an assessment with one of our clinics across North Queensland today.